Minnesota rowing coach loses battle with cancer

Aaron Blake

Minnesota novice rowing coach Kerry O’Keefe died Sunday in Minneapolis after a long bout with cervical cancer. She was 33.

“One cannot quite fathom how such a young, vibrant professional and popular person can be taken so soon,” said women’s athletics director Chris Voelz in a release. “This is a loss for our whole program and in particular the student-athletes whom she coached.

“We will sustain ourselves with the privilege of having known Kerry and the inspiration we received from watching her courage and optimism throughout this long battle. She has had a lasting impact upon this new rowing program and her memory will always be with us.”

O’Keefe coached Minnesota during the 2000-01 season, its first as a varsity program. Prior to her tenure at Minnesota, O’Keefe was the head coach at Southern Methodist University in 1999-2000. She was an assistant coach at Yale in 1996-97 under current Gophers head coach Wendy Davis.

O’Keefe is survived by her mother Ann, her brother Roy, her sister Kim, and her twin sister Karen. A funeral service will be held Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis. The Kerry O’Keefe Equipment Fund for Women’s Rowing at the University of Minnesota has been set up by the family.

Shannon, 54, dies

Former Minnesota basketball player Ollie Shannon died Friday of pancreatic cancer. He was 54.

Shannon, who played two season for the Gophers, led the team in scoring in both the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons.

Prior to arriving at Minnesota, Shannon played junior college basketball for Minneapolis Community and Technical College.

Shannon was a scoring threat for the Gophers. A 42-point effort against Wisconsin on March 6, 1971, tied him with Eric Magdanz for Minnesota’s single-game scoring record.

After starring for the Gophers, Shannon was selected in the seventh round of the 1971 NBA draft by the Cincinnati Royals, now the Sacramento Kings.

Shannon was born and went to high school in New York City. He had recently resided in Bridgeport, Conn., and coached semiprofessional basketball.

His funeral will take place at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at Lesko Funeral Home in Fairfield, Conn. His family will also hold a memorial service in the Twin Cities on an unannounced date.

Donations may be made in Shannon’s honor to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The address for PCAN is P.O. Box 1010, Torrance, CA 90505.


– Aaron Blake, Staff Reporter